The United States of America is in the throes of perhaps the most significant transformation of the economy and society since the Industrial Revolution. Our increasing “technology economy” has supplanted forms of work that once relied on strong backs and lots of employees. Jobs that were once abundant no longer exist and jobs we can’t even imagine may be part of tomorrow’s workplace. Lost with many of the jobs are living wages that provided families with middle-income comforts. At the other end of the emergent economy are the newly rich, those who harness technology to produce vast wealth.
These economic changes have also fueled immigration, as the US demands workers at the high end of the knowledge spectrum (doctors, scientists, engineers) and at the lower end of the skill scale (construction, housekeeping, hospitality staff). The demographic diversification of the US is altering prevailing patterns of status and hierarchies. Greater inclusion in “the American Dream” is a positive outcome for many, however, the rise of white nationalism serves to remind us that dislocations can feed prejudice and discrimination against the “others” in our society.
During the course of these transformations, wealth and power have become increasingly concentrated and unequally distributed. The gap between the rich and the rest of us is wider today than at any other point in recent American history. Political science research confirms what many Americans have suspected for a long time: elected officials respond to the interests of the wealthy and corporations. The major institutions of government are viewed unfavorably by Americans: according to recent Gallup.com surveys, 78% disapproved of the job Congress is doing while 58% disapproved of the job President Trump is doing. Further frustrating public impressions of the work of the federal government is the strident partisan differences between Democrats and Republicans. Without bipartisan compromises, little policy making gets done in Washington D.C.
What does all of this mean for American government and politics? Some of the social problems exacerbated by transformations and dysfunctions include:
- Diminished confidence in political and economic processes
- Stark disagreements over the distribution of resources, goods, and services
- Further concentration of political and economic power
- Increasing polarization and clashes over the purpose and role of government in society
Is American democracy healthy? Political scientists and others are concerned that the political system has calcified and is proving incapable of responding to and resolving current disputes.
Instructions for this Essay assignment:
You will consider the information provided above in light of the information about American democracy you learn in the assigned readings (American Government and Civic Engagement, The Constitution and Its Origins, American Federalism, The Politics of Public Opinion, and The Media).
You will read three articles that lay out many of the concerns being expressed about the ill-health of American democracy and the possibility of a constitutional convention to address some of the indicators of the failing political system. Make note of the arguments that lend support to the idea of holding a new constitutional convention.
You will prepare a media or social media campaign that having a constitutional convention. Choose whether you will use traditional electronic (television/radio) or print media (newspapers, articles) OR social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) to conduct your campaign.
Specifically, your campaign will address:
- The role of civic engagement in promoting constitutional revision
- Specific constitutional areas to be reformed and why
- Why state-federal relations need to change
- The role public opinion will play in supporting constitutional change
This is a student journal of politics sponsored by the Harvard Institute of Politics
Lawrence Lessig is a Harvard University Law professor
The Economist is a reputable British news source
I recommend organizing your campaign in such a way that it addresses each of the substantive sections of the assignment. This structure will keep you focused on what is required and it will ensure that you respond fully.
You will prepare a 270 word (minimum) essay in which you respond to the prompts listed above. Your response must be written in academic English. You will use your own voice and write in your own words—no quotes or paraphrases allowed. To earn full points you must follow all instructions carefully, proofread for writing errors, and submit on time.